Hurricane Florence and the Hazards of Stormwater Runoff

The Atlantic Hurricane season is now upon us for 2018. The season began on June 1st and runs through to the end of November. Although it is possible for storms to form outside of this time frame, we can expect the bulk of the weather to fall in this period. As Hurricane Florence nears the Carolina coast, many local stores are experiencing empty gasoline pumps and barren store shelves. Hurricane Florence will generate 140 mph (225 kph) winds and drenching rain that could last for days. North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper has declared a state of emergency and prompted those who live on the coast to evacuate inland. While many think a hurricane only harms coastal communities, flash flooding, high winds, tornadoes, landslides, and mud slides can cause incredible damage to inland communities both during and long after a major storm event like Florence.

It is important to understand that even after a hurricane passes through your neighborhood, you could still be at risk. The precipitation that does not soak into the ground where it falls is referred to as “stormwater runoff“, which can continue to accumulate and cause flooding issues for several days after the rain stops. This runoff is incredibly good at picking up whatever it comes into contact with as it travels downward to the lowest elevation, so it can sometimes also contain hazardous substances such as debris, chemicals, oils and grease, sediment, bacteria, and other pollutants.

Contamination of local waterways is a major threat that can arise from heavy rainfall. Runoff may pollute rivers, lakes, aquifers, and other water bodies nearby. This can add chemicals and hazardous substances to water sources that people drink and swim in. Runoff may be harmful for humans or livestock which may attempt to feed off of plants or water sources that have been affected by runoff. When water runs off roofs, yards, streets, and parking lots into storm sewers or directly into waterways, it carries with it sediments that clog streams and reduce oxygen in the water, as well as chemicals that can be fatal to aquatic ecosystems and lead to undrinkable water supplies for humans.

What To Do During Hurricane Florence

To avoid contributing to runoff pollution during Hurricane Florence, residents can take certain precautions such as cleaning up any debris or waste in yards and streets, and refraining from fertilizing and watering yards, or using toxic products directly before the hurricane. Other steps you can take include reducing the amount of impervious surfaces on your property, lining impervious surfaces with gravel trenches, using the water that drains off your roof, replacing lawn areas with native plants, adding organic matter to your soil, planting trees, creating a rain garden, installing berms and vegetated swales, as well as reducing the slope of your yard. It is also important to ensure pet waste is disposed of properly, as pet waste left on the ground can be washed into surface waters, causing significant bacterial contamination and boosting the nutrients to unsafe levels. It is also important to secure septic systems to ensure that waste does not seep into runoff.

Rain is never going away, and neither is human infrastructure. However, growing technologies like permeable pavement, rain garden construction in urban centers, and public education can go a long way in protecting the health of the lakes, rivers, and oceans that so many people and animals call home. By working together to preserve plant life that filters storm water and taking steps in our everyday lives to slow runoff and instead use it for something like a rain garden, we can begin to tackle the problem of stormwater pollution together.

City of Raleigh Hosting Hurricane Season Flooding Series August 28 and 29

The City of Raleigh sees the most flooding impacts from hurricanes in September and October. To help you prepare, the City is holding public meetings that cover:

  • Why flooding happens;
  • What to expect in different areas of the city;
  • What the City does to reduce impacts from flooding; and,
  • Available community resources.

WRAL meteorologist Greg Fishel will be there to lend his expertise as well!

Click on the links below to find out more information about the series – no reservations are required.

Flooding Series: What you Need to Know During Hurricane Season
August 28 at 6 p.m.
Walnut Creek Wetland Center, 950 Peterson St.

Flooding Series: What you Need to Know During Hurricane Season
August 29 at 6 p.m.
Lake Lynn Community Center, 7921 Ray Road

Spotlight on Cary – Stormwater Program of the Month!

Each month we will be featuring the outstanding work that our CWEP Partners are doing to keep our stormwater clean around the region and in your communities. This month we’re focusing on the Town of Cary as they strive to continue increasing public engagement and awareness of stormwater in their everyday lives!

In the Town of Cary’s continuing engagement with downtown stormwater stakeholders, staff gave a guided tour to about 10 citizens, including developers and downtown homeowners, to see real-life examples of stormwater management in practice and public-private opportunities. NC State University professor Dr. Bill Hunt was in attendance and provided valuable insights. In addition to the walking tour, attendees were able to see the new truck that is cleaning out stormwater drains in a Town of Cary pilot area as part of their proactive approach to maintenance.

DT Stormwater Tour 1

The tour infused plenty of Town technology by utilizing a stormwater storymap via iPad devices in order to supplement the talking points at each spot along the tour. The tour group was encouraged to share the walking tour and storymap with their social circles and continue using the features through the publicly accessible website. Since the tour, the Town of Cary has seen traffic to the storymap website double. Be sure to check out this cool technology and see photos of stormwater education in action!

Spotlight on Hillsborough – Stormwater Program of the Month!

Each month we will be featuring the outstanding work that our CWEP Partners are doing to keep our stormwater clean around the region and in your communities. This month we’re focusing on Hillsborough as they work to grow their stormwater education and outreach programs and maximize their impact with the community!

Stormwater Almanac

The Hillsborough Stormwater and Environmental Services division publishes a Stormwater Almanac quarterly, featuring educational articles and updates on Town stormwater projects. The most recent issue highlighted the Town’s stormwater retrofit that directed additional stormwater runoff to a bioretention cell in Cates Creek park.

CatesCreekParkRetrofit_NewInlet

Volunteers Help Maintain Wetland

Triangle Fly Fishers, a local fly fishing and conservation group recently completed maintenance at the Town of Hillsborough’s stormwater wetland located at Gold Park. Volunteers removed cattails, unwanted woody vegetation, as well as trash and debris. As part of the effort, Stormwater and Environmental Services Manager, Terry Hackett explained how the wetland functions to remove stormwater pollution which benefits the nearby Eno River.

StormwaterWetlandVolunteerMaintenance

Citizens Academy

Stormwater and Environmental Services staff presented to the Town of Hillsborough’s 4th Citizens Academy. The Citizens Academy is a 7-week long program aimed at helping citizens increase their knowledge of town government, as well as their interest and ability in influencing and participating in town decisions.  Staff provided an overview of the town’s stormwater program, including the town’s stormwater management utility and associated fee. Participants then had the opportunity to ask questions to gain more insight about the town’s efforts to reduce stormwater runoff pollution.

Earth Evening 2018

Every year on the Friday night of Earth Week, the division speaks with the public and leads hands-on activities for all ages during the annual Earth Evening event at the Market Pavilion in River Park, downtown Hillsborough. This event is organized by Orange County Department of Environment, Agriculture, Parks and Recreation. The division also leads similar activities at local schools throughout the year.

TES_Science_Night_2018

SCM Recognition Program

The division is kicking off a recognition program for owners of Stormwater Control Measures (SCMs) this month. The town requires SCM owners to maintain their SCMs and submit annual inspection reports. The program will recognize those property owners who have exceptional compliance records and consistently maintain SCMs, following all applicable maintenance requirements. While recognizing deserving property owners, we also hope to achieve greater public awareness of our SCM inspection program.

For more information about the great work Hillsborough is doing, feel free to reach out to the Town’s Stormwater Coordinator Heather Fisher at 919-296-9622!

City of Raleigh 2018 Capture it! Stormwater Arts Contest Winners Announced

Congratulations to the City of Raleigh’s 2018 Capture it! Stormwater Arts Contest winners! Winners for the three categories below were announced at the 11th Annual Environmental Awards in March:

Video Winner – “Stormwater Video” by Ryann Bauguess, Rachel Young, and Kira Badrova

 

Check out the winning video below!

Storm Drain Stencil Design Winner  “All Drains to the Neuse” by Genna Stott

Storm Drain Stencil Winner 2018

Rain Barrel Artwork Design Winner – “Which Side are you on?” by Izabel de Angelo, Davis Lingle, Jonathan Clymer, and Taylor Gantt.

Rain Barrel Winner 2018

Spotlight on Durham: Stormwater Program of the Month!

Each month we will be featuring the outstanding work that our CWEP Partners are doing to keep our stormwater clean around the region and in your communities. This month we’re focusing on Durham and their longstanding Creek Week efforts, as well as their pledge to keep more plastic waste out of our waters!

There is a lot going on in March for both the City and County of Durham, as well as their many environmental partners in the community! Durham’s Creek Week has been an established event for the last decade, and each year it grows and evolves even more. In conjunction with this year’s Creek Week, there are lots of other great events, initiatives, and opportunities to get involved with cleaning up your environment and keeping our water safe. For a list of all Creek Week events, check out this website: Durham Creek Week Events Page.  Whether you’re interested in a litter cleanup event, planting a tree, or even a canoe paddle, you’ll definitely find something fun to do!

Skip the Straw!

More than 500,000,000 straws are used once and tossed every day in this country! Mayor Steve Schewel has proclaimed March “No Straws Month” in Durham: “Single use plastics that find their way onto our streets get washed through storm drains into local creeks and all the way to the ocean,” says Mayor Schewel. “Plastic litter is a roadside eyesore, and it also can be fatal to river and ocean animals.” To kick off the month, a screening of the environmental awareness documentary “Straws” by Linda Booker was provided at the Durham Arts Council on February 22nd – it was a packed house with help from Bull City Burger and Brewery, Pompieri Pizza, Duke Environmental Law and Policy Clinic, Keep Durham Beautiful, The City of Durham Stormwater & GIS Services, Don’t Waste DurhamCompostNow, and other local environmentally conscious businesses!

Check out the trailer for “Straws” and learn more about this plastic pollution!

Several restaurants, bars, business, and other entities have taken the pledge to reduce or eliminate straw use in their establishments – some bars have even permanently moved to using only metal or other green straws! If you want to challenge yourself to have an impact on this type of plastic waste (and we promise, it’s won’t be too hard!), take the pledge at the link below:

Take the Pledge to SKIP THE STRAW here!

Don’t Litter, Man!

Don’t Litter, Man Full Video

Local Durhamite Pierce Freelon leads a litter art and beats workshop for youth at The Scrap Exchange to show that litter goes all the way to the ocean. Check out this fun video and show it to your kids, classroom, or even your coworkers!

City of Raleigh Capture It! Stormwater Art Contest Open Now!

Getting Students Interested in Water Quality Through Art and Film

The City of Raleigh Division of Stormwater Management is currently accepting entries for its ‘Capture It! Stormwater Arts Contest’. This is an opportunity for high school students to capture the importance of stormwater runoff through art and film in a way that will bring more awareness to the community about improving the water quality of Raleigh’s streams and lakes.

Students are encouraged to create one of the following to show residents how they can help keep streams clean.

  • A 60-second video;
  • A painting to be placed on a rain barrel; or,
  • A drawing to be used as a stencil for City of Raleigh storm drain covers.

Registration closes Friday, January 26, 2018. Winners in each category will receive a $300 prize, and will be featured at the 2018 Raleigh Environmental Awards. So get out there, make some art, and change your community for the better!

New CWEP Stormwater Video Heading to a Theater Near You this December!

We are very excited to release our new animated stormwater video that we’ve been working hard on over the last few months! This 30-second version of our full-length video will be shown in theaters across the region this holiday season, so tell your friends: If you’re headed to the movies between December 15th and 29th, grab a seat a little early to catch this ad rolling a few minutes before the previews start!

You can find our full-length videos in both English and Spanish, as well as individual pollutant spots you can use at home, at work, or in the classroom on our Resources page.

Spotlight on Chapel Hill – Stormwater Program of the Month!

Each month we will be featuring the outstanding work that our CWEP Partners are doing to keep our stormwater clean around the region and in your communities. This month we’re focusing on Chapel Hill and their robust stormwater program. Check out their fun local events educating their community about the importance of clean water!

2017 FestiFALL!

The Chapel Hill FESTIFALL was held on October 1, 2017. Participants were able to interact with Chapel Hill stormwater staff and get watershed smart!

During the FestiFALL, the Chapel Hill Stormwater Management’s booth had three stations:

  1. Find Your Watershed on the local map;

IMG_0158Jason Salat, Chapel Hill Stormwater Management, helps a resident find her address on the map and identify the subwatershed in which she lives.

2. Learn about pollution sources and how we can prevent water pollution with the Enviroscape watershed model;

IMG_0167Visitors of all ages learn about stormwater runoff and how we can prevent pollution through the Enviroscape watershed model activity.

3) Take a Pledge and get your photo taken with Grandma Beaver!

Jayden and Pedro make a pledge to pick up litter!Jayden and Pedro promise not to litter to keep our water cleaner and get their pictures taken with Grandma Beaver.

 

PERFECT WEATHER, PERFECT TEAMWORK!

The annual litter cleanup on Bolin Creek was held on Saturday, October 21, 2017 was a lot of fun for the 47 volunteers who learned about the watershed, then spruced up a public housing community and paths along the creek with removal of about 500 pounds of trash.  The 75% reduction of trash from a year ago was significant and illustrated better awareness and care of our environment as well as no recent flooding.

Perfect fall weather helped participants enjoy nature while working together during the cool morning.  Many thanks go to the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Schools’ Blue Ribbon Mentor Program, Chapel Hill High School Student Environmental Education Coalition, Carrboro High School AP Environmental Science students, Chapel Hill Police Department and academy recruits, Stormwater Management’s volunteer stream monitors, Chapel Hill Public Housing staff, and families and friends who wanted to lend a helping hand!

20171021_095616

The only litter returned to the ground was a piece of wet cardboard under which two marbled salamanders guarded their eggs, waiting for a rain to hatch. Click this link to learn more about these critters!

IMG_0195

For more information about Chapel Hill Stormwater Management and the work they are doing to keep our water clean and healthy, contact Wendy Smith, Community Education Coordinator, at 919-969-7246.

 

Spotlight on Zebulon – Stormwater Program of the Month!

Each month we will be featuring the outstanding work that our CWEP Partners are doing to keep our stormwater clean around the region and in your communities. This month we’re focusing on Zebulon and how they’ve worked hard over the last few years to grow their program and educate their citizens on the importance of keeping stormwater clean and green!

Since 2012, the Town of Zebulon has worked to raise awareness of stormwater pollution and ways to prevent it. Below is Zebulon’s clean stormwater mascot, Mr. Drip. They have added him to all of their literature and to their website.

sentientraindrop
Mr. Drip reminds residents to keep the drains clean.

In 2013, the town of Zebulon purchased a new sweeper and wrapped it with Mr. Drip, the “Only Rain in the Drain” slogan, and the reminder to not put grass clippings, leaves, motor oil, or trash in the storm drains. The message is on display every time Zebulon Public Works sweeps a town street, another aspect of keeping non-stormwater items from going down the drain as the street sweeper catches debris before it can enter the drain. “Stormwater” magazine featured their efforts and the sweeper in their June 2013 edition.

magazine clippingZebulon’s street sweeper made the June 2013 issue of Stormwater Magazine

To reach every resident who receives a municipal water bill, Zebulon developed a series of utility bill stuffers on individual topics and sends them out with the monthly water bills. The stuffers are an easy, low-cost way to keep residents thinking about prevention of stormwater pollution and allow us to promote specific ways the residents can help their town keep the stormwater system clean.

cwep-blog-static-page-001-e1510775798637.jpg

Several times a year, when the Zebulon Public Works department has the opportunity to speak with youths and adults about stormwater pollution, they demonstrate their Enviroscape model. Tony Rose, Stormwater Superintendent, uses the model to show how fertilizers, chemicals, automotive oil and grease, animal waste, pesticides, and trash enter the storm drain system and travel to nearby rivers and streams. Tony offers tips to prevent contamination and preserve natural waters.

tony rose party
Tony Rose, Stormwater Superintendent, using the Enviroscape model to explain stormwater pollution and ways to prevent it.

Civic group involvement enhances Zebulon’s efforts to educate people and maintain a clean stormwater system. A team of employees from Glaxo helped Zebulon Public Works mark storm drains in several neighborhoods as reminders to keep trash out of the drains. Rotary Club members participated in a litter sweep along one of Zebulon’s busier routes. All of these efforts help to raise awareness of the need to maintain a clean stormwater system throughout Zebulon.

employee making fish
Glaxo employee marks storm drain to remind neighbors not to dump in the drain and pollute the Little River. Decal pictured below.

no dumping fish.png

rotary club cleaning
Rotary Club members collect trash along Alt- Hwy 264E to prevent trash from entering the storm drain system and, eventually, the nearby streams.